Population Health Research Institute has raised a total of $17,698 for families affected by Cyclone Idai – with donations from staff matched by PHRI and also matched by Loblaws. The funds were given to UNICEF Canada to help with the situation; more than 200,000 homes have been destroyed, and nearly 75,000 people displaced, in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as a result of the cyclone.

Communities across Mozambique have not only had to deal with the physical devastation of Cyclone Idai, but in the wake of the disaster, they are now grappling with a cholera outbreak and a surge in malaria cases. Many of those displaced are living in cramped accommodation centres or with friends and family in overcrowded, damaged homes in the community, contributing to the rapid spread of disease.

The community has been quick to mobilize, and an initiative that developed more than 11 years ago has been reignited to entertain and engage. The Social Communication Institute, supported by UNICEF, is running three mobile movie units that travel around cyclone affected areas showing films about water and hygiene, cholera and malaria (as well as girls’ education). The films also provide a little escape from the current reality of displacement and devastation brought by the disaster.

The teams use epidemiological and demographic data to assess the most vulnerable communities and deploy their movie unit and social mobilizers to spread public health messages. In the first few weeks of April 2019, the units reached approximately 48,000 people.

Across cyclone affected areas, the cholera outbreak is slowing, and families are preparing to return to what is left of their homes. While the communications infrastructure throughout the region is rebuilt after extensive damage, these alternative mechanisms for engaging communities in public health, are welcome and necessary.

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